Work on Staffordshire rail 'bottleneck' begins
Work has begun on a £250m scheme in Staffordshire to improve train journey times on the West Coast Main Line.
Network Rail said it was installing new signals to speed up journeys between Norton Bridge and Crewe.
It would also provide a new area for freight trains at Stafford and, subject to the outcome of a public inquiry, a new flyover at Norton Bridge, it said.
The whole project is due to be finished by December 2017 with passengers seeing "little or no disruption to services".
The first stage of work is focused on increasing train speeds on 23 miles (37km) of track between Norton Bridge and Crewe from 75mph to 100mph.
Network Rail said if planning permission was given to build the flyover at Norton Bridge, work on that would begin next spring.
A spokesman for the company said the works were complex but would remove "a key bottleneck" from the West Coast Main Line.
He said: "This will help us provide faster, more frequent train services with improved reliability."
"Passengers will see little or no disruption to services as a result of this work because most of it will be delivered during weekends and midweek nights."
Network Rail said as a result of the project, it would be able to put on two extra trains every hour in each direction between London and the North West.
That would include one additional train hourly both ways between Manchester and Birmingham, via Stone, and a further freight train every hour each way through Stafford, it said.